Implementing the policy on learner pregnancy in rural schools : Perspectives from schools in Uthukela District.
Molefe, Mausley Barbara Sikhumbuzo.
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In responding to the high rate of teenage pregnancy in school going learners in South Africa and the need for continued access to education for boys and girls, the National Department of Education released the Measures for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy policy in public schools (DoE, 2007). This policy was intended to assist schools in their efforts to reduce the rate of learner pregnancy and in managing pregnancies when they occur. Therefore the purpose of the study was to explore the roles that the SMTs are playing in the implementation of the learner pregnancy policy in three combined schools. The study also sought to explore the challenges the SMTs face when implementing the learner pregnancy policy and how do the SMTs overcome those challenges. It was hoped that the study would contribute to the body of knowledge and literature in the domain of the education management regarding experiences and strategies that school management uses to deal with issues of learner pregnancy. The study fell within the framework of leadership and management and was located within the interpretive paradigm. A multiple case study approach to data gathering and presentation was used to allow for some breadth as well as depth of focus. The study was underpinned by two theories; Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory and invitational leadership theory. These theories helped me to understand how the SMTs played the roles and why in certain ways when implementing the learner pregnancy policy considered direct and indirect influences of learners’ development and how inviting their leadership is when implementing. The study was undertaken in the Uthukela District in KZN Province, South Africa. The schools that I selected were rural combined schools. The areas around these schools were dominated by poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS pandemic and child-headed families. The research was only confined to three principals, three HODs for Humanities, one LO educator from each school and one member of SGB from each school. Data generation in this study involved semi-structured interviews which were the primary data generation methods, document reviews and observations which were the secondary data generation methods The findings from the study revealed that the SMTs promoted awareness of the policy to parents, educator and learners themselves. The SMTs were playing a role of supporting learners in schools whether pregnant or not in order to retain them. The SMTs organised learner pregnancy awareness campaigns to help learners to make them aware of sexuality issues and the consequences of engaging themselves in sexual activities at an early age. The SMT respected the right to education for learners because they did not suspend or expel any learner due to pregnancy instead they supported those learners. However, the SMTs were experiencing more challenges whilst playing their roles which continued to increase learner pregnancies and drop outs of school due to pregnancy, like the influence of old Zulu tradition, unsupportive parents and negative attitudes displayed by both pregnant and non pregnant learners and even some educators themselves. Most of these learners were dropping out and most of them returning the following year because some could not catch up with the work done while they were absent. To overcome the challenges, SMTs had to promote peer education programme, involve all stakeholders and give academic support to pregnant learners during and after pregnancy. Recommendations to the Department included the following, support schools by involving learners themselves and the entire school community in the policy implementation and the learner pregnancy policy should also focus on boy learners.